I recently picked up a few classes at a new studio that's opening this spring. Rather taking pictures and using bios to let students get to know their instructors, the manager at this studio filmed each teacher answering the question, "Why do you practice yoga?". I had a little time to consider the question before I was recorded, and I've had a lot more time to ponder on this since, so my answer has evolved a bit.
I started practicing yoga simply to complement my training for half marathons. I was overheating running during the summer and decided to try hot yoga. My goal was to acclimate myself to the heat so that I could perform better in it. After my first class, I was hooked. I eventually gave up running and decided to teach yoga and group fitness full time. Yoga obviously means a lot to me, as I've dedicated my life to sharing it. But why?
I think the first thing that really hooked me into yoga was the teaching team at my home studio. We have amazing teachers who get to know their students, help them accomplish their goals, and give them usable and constructive feedback. So rather than listening to music or a book while running, I was interacting with another human and receiving encouraging feedback. As an introvert, this made me feel very cared for and seen.
Before long, I started making friends at the yoga studio. it was fun to meet like-minded people at the studio and get to know them outside of it. So at this point, I was practicing to see the teachers I loved and to spend time with my friends in the yoga community. And the more I practiced, the more people I got to know and the more I felt seen and loved.
And once I got comfortable with my new yoga community and with the language of yoga, I realized that yoga was becoming my time to clear my mind. When I'm concentrating on my breath or holding a balance pose, I can't even start to worry about my grocery list, my plans for that afternoon, or if I could have been kinder to a stranger. Instead, my mind is clear and I'm completely in the present moment and in my body. And what a relief it is to get out of my thought pattern for an hour or more and just move and breathe.
Now that I teach, a yoga class is more a research project for me. I go to move my body but also to sharpen my cues and get inspiration for peak poses. So I'm back to being a little in my head trying to remember what I loved about class. However, I find that teaching yoga gives me that space to clear my head like practicing used to. When I teach, I try to really be present: listening to my cues and watching how they land, looking for adjustment opportunities, and providing my students feedback on their alignment.
Yoga for me is also spiritual and meditative. I've fun to see how much strength and flexibility my body has gained since I started practicing and to see my students progress week after week. And it's still a great way to meet new like-minded friends. It's much more than I could type in a blog post, but if I boil down what yoga is to me today, it's a small vacation from the chatter in my head.
I'd love to hear what yoga is to you. Please comment below!